Wednesday, August 15, 2012

That Pesky Thorn (Part Two):

How a Compromise Became a Real Pain

In Part One, we saw God’s people failing to obey Him and compromising with things that would draw them away from Him.  As a consequence, the very things they allowed to remain became snares to them, traps, like thorns in their sides.  The same kind of dynamics exist today.
Let me illustrate this with a story from my own life.  For many years my thought life was characterized by dark, sadistic, violent story lines.  I have an active imagination, and it wouldn’t take more than a newspaper article describing a violent crime to paint a vivid picture in my mind.  The picture stayed there, dominating my thoughts, even while I did other things.  Even while I tried to pray or read my Bible.  ESPECIALLY when I tried to pray or read my Bible.  No matter how hard I tried, no matter what Scripture I quoted, no matter how many praise and worship songs I sang, I could not get rid of those thoughts.
To shorten the story of a twenty-six year long struggle, the time came when in desperation, I cried out to God for help.  He freed me from the dark fantasies, and He did it more quickly than I could have imagined.  It was wonderful to feel clean again, no longer dominated by such evil pictures and story lines.
After nearly a year of delicious freedom, the time came when I made the mistake of compromise. I borrowed a book of historical fiction set in Germany during World War II.  One major character was an especially sadistic Gestapo officer.  The author went into vivid, lurid detail describing this officer’s brutality toward a young, beautiful Jewish girl.  I quickly realized that this story line was not good for me.  I was interested in the story, though, and wanted to see how it turned out.
So I compromised.  I didn’t actually READ that sadistic section.  I just skipped my eyes down the page until I found where the “bad part” ended.  Unfortunately for me, I am an extremely efficient scanner.  The few words I caught as I scanned the pages were enough to paint a mental picture that haunted me for the next two weeks. 
Because I wanted to finish the story, I tried to make a bargain with God.  The NEXT time that sadistic officer went into action in the book, I would skip to the end of the chapter without reading anything in between.  I hoped that would be good enough, and that God would erase the pictures from my mind.  It wasn’t good enough.  No matter what I did, the sadistic images remained.
You see, by continuing to read that book when I knew I shouldn’t, I had allowed an “altar” to remain in my life that should have been destroyed.  Finishing that story had, for a time, become more important to me than obeying God by putting the book away.  The resulting mental images did indeed become like “a thorn in my side”.  Once again, whenever I tried to read my Bible or pray, images of the brutal Nazi in action flickered through my thoughts. Once again, I experienced a major blockage in my relationship with God. 
Thankfully, I finally realized that I must “tear down the altar” and give it no place in my life. I MUST stop reading that story.  I remember vividly how it happened.  I was driving into town with that persistent image and story line pushing itself forward to be recognized.  I tried to pray. I tried to sing praise and worship songs. I quoted Scripture that had powerfully defeated such thoughts in recent months.  Absolutely nothing helped. As long as I insisted on reading that book, it remained a “thorn in my side”.  God no longer drove away my spiritual enemies.
Finally, I prayed something like this. “Oh Father, I am so sorry I kept on reading that book when I knew it was not good for me.  The freedom You have given me is far too precious to throw away just to find how a story ends. So Father, this is what I will do.  I’m going into town right now. Before I go anywhere else, I will return the book to the place where I borrowed it without reading another word. I pray that You will wash away those pictures from my mind so they will have no power over me.  Thank You for forgiving me.  Amen.”
The result was instantaneous. That persistent mental images disappeared. The thorn was GONE!  Even now, I can share the story, and my mind is free of the pictures.  The story has no more power because the “altar” is gone, and God can drive out my enemies again.
That incident taught me the importance of never compromising with the wrong things.  Movies and books full of sadism and violence such as the one I described here happen to be examples of things I must not permit into my mind.  Enough of that evil exists in the real world.  I don’t need to feed my mind on more of the same for the purpose of entertainment.  If I do, I risk allowing that “thorn” to grow up again, and hinder the victory God wants to give me.

What are some other things that could become “thorns” if allowed to remain? Come back tomorrow as we consider what those things might be that can get in the way of the victory that could be ours.


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